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'Forgotten children' - World Orphan Week special

Child, earthquake Haiti
Child, earthquake Haiti

Children in Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic

The Haitian earthquake in January 2010, reported to have killed up to 200,000 people, has left thousands of children orphaned and many more separated from their parents. Amidst the chaos, children wander the streets looking for relatives, and many are permanently scarred (both physically and mentally) by the shock and horror of this disaster.

These children are seriously traumatised, and SOS Children in Haiti is providing them with counselling, playtime, and safe shelter. (As of 05 February 2010, we are caring for approximately 300 young children left alone after the earthquake at SOS Children’s Village Santo near Port-au-Prince, and providing food and programmes for around 12,000 at 33 centres around Port-au-Prince). All the lone children need long-term care, love and family stability to ensure they can come to terms with their grief. Where no viable children’s families can be found, most are likely to end up safely at home at an SOS Children’s Village in Haiti.

The media has reported extensively on this disaster, which has increased international awareness of the plight of Haitian children. Millions of kind people have donated to charities to help those affected as a result – and we thank them all.

Acute disasters, as in Haiti,  make the news. However, chronic disasters do not.

Since 1994, an estimated 5.4 million people have died in a war in central Africa. To give an idea of the scale, the population of Ireland is 4.3 million (Unicef). Few people are aware that this war is even happening.

The children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in southern Central African Republic (CAR) have watched their families die in horrific circumstances (as the children in Haiti have done). The DRC / CAR war is brutal and many have died by machete, club or gun. Entire villages are burnt to the ground, and children snatched by the the soldiers to fight.

As in Haiti, the DRC and CAR are so poor that they cannot care for the children orphaned and deeply traumatised by the war and the massacres. Hundreds of thousands of adults and children have also died of disease and starvation, caused partly by the war. With homes, hospitals and schools destroyed, families and communities have found themselves without food, water, shelter or other basic services.

Children die faster in the DRC than in all but 10 other countries in the world, according to United Nations statistics. A house-to-house survey by the International Rescue Committee found that the child death rate was four times that for Africa as a whole. If conditions remain unchanged, 515 of every 1,000 children in the DRC will die before turning five, the organization said.

This devastating war has not made the news. However, this does not mean the DRC and CAR children are not deserving of a mum, a family, an education, a home, healthcare and counselling.

SOS Children has not forgotten about these broken and vulnerable children. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three SOS Children’s Villages care for over 400 children. Over 300 children have found a family for life at the two SOS Children’s Villages in the Central African Republic.

Through World Orphan Week, help us give these ‘forgotten children’ a family for life. By sponsoring a child in the DRC or CAR, you can ensure these children can live within the safety of a children's village and overcome their fear and grief to become happy, healthy, smiling children again.

Somewhere in the World a Child Loses a Parent Every 2.2 Seconds. There are 143 million orphaned children living in the world today and as many as 100 million more children abandoned on the streets world wide, living in substandard and dangerous conditions.  Generations of children have been left to raise themselves. What future awaits them? What future can be predicted for their countries? World Orphan Week is the time to respond to the World Orphan Crisis.  Click here to find out how you can make the difference.